Teachers from Seattle’s Garfield High School, the site of a 2013 testing boycott, say they oppose new Common Core tests but won’t boycott them — so many students are “opting out” of the tests that the teachers don’t have to protest.

Share story

So many students at Seattle’s Garfield High School are protesting new Common Core tests that teachers at the school don’t have to, Garfield staff said Tuesday.

At a news conference Tuesday, Garfield history teacher Jesse Hagopian said about half the juniors at the school — the site of a testing boycott in 2013 — have refused to take new, computerized tests, called Smarter Balanced, which are designed to measure whether students understand new learning standards known as the Common Core.

Washington students started taking the exams March 10, though some schools have yet to start testing.

That means Garfield teachers will not be asked to escort students in their classrooms to computer labs for testing, Hagopian said. Instead, school administrators will get those students who haven’t “opted out” of the exams when testing begins.

“Parents exercising their right to opt out have allowed us to retain valuable instructional time,” Garfield High School staff said in a letter distributed during the news conference at the Seattle King County NAACP offices in Seattle’s Central District.

About half the junior classes at Roosevelt and Ingraham high schools — between roughly 150 to 200 students, according to state enrollment records — have also opted out of the tests, according to a school-district spokeswoman.

At the news conference, teachers discussed reports of smaller opt-outs at other schools, including almost half the juniors at Nathan Hale High.

Washington students will eventually need to pass the Smarter Balanced tests to graduate from high school. Sophomores here are taking the Smarter Balanced reading exams as a graduation requirement this year.

But many juniors already took a different set of tests required to graduate, called the High School Proficiency Exams, or HSPE, which are now being phased out.

Scores on the new tests will be used to track school progress under the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind.

For a school to meet the standard under the law, 95 percent of its students must take the exams.

Any student who refuses will be recorded as scoring a zero, which could hurt the school’s overall passage rate, Seattle Public Schools said in a statement Tuesday.